Despite the Syrian regime’s apparent acceptance of the Arab League initiative, it has continued in its repressive measures and used heavy artillery to bomb densely populated neighbourhoods in the city of Homs (the area of Baba ‘Amr has witnessed a full military onslaught, with reports of military defections in the neighbourhood). The Syrian regime, on the other hand, deny that their practice demonstrates their rejection of the initiative. Instead, according to an unnamed official, they are gradually removing military and security forces from cities and towns across the country. However, they question the Arab League for not providing any guarantees that a withdrawal of the military and security would be coupled with the cessation of all armed activities by claimed militias terrorizing the populace.
The continuation of repressive policies, despite the regime agreeing to the Arab League initiative, led Alain Juppé (French foreign minister) to view the initiative as dead. In a significant turn, he declared the French state’s willingness to recognise the Syrian National Council as representative of the Syrian people. In fact, they are currently studying the recognition of the SNC and will make a decision soon. He nevertheless states that the Syria opposition, which Juppé declares as supported and backed by the French state, should first work to unify their ranks and organisation structure, with his government providing them their support to achieve that end. At the same time, a military intervention in Syria is not seen as feasible due to an expected Russian veto and with the French state not willing to intervene unless there is a UN mandate for such an intervention. Thus he suggests stronger roles from a GCC dominated Arab League and Turkey.
The Arab League are open to an external intervention and this surfaced when the Syrian regime requested that the Arab League initiative clearly state a clear refusal of any foreign intervention. Instead, the Arab League rejected this stipulation and worded their initiative by stating that foreign interventions should only be avoided. There is also news that the Arab League, led by Saudi-Arabia and Qatar, could soon suspend Syria’s membership of the organisation.Turkey, on the other hand, has again sharpened their rhetoric. First, stronger measures are expected, though it is not clear what these measures would be. Regarding a possible military intervention inside Syria, such as a buffer zone within Syrian territory, Ahmet Davutoğlu (Turkish foreign minister) stated:
We hope that there will be no need for [a buffer zone or a no-fly zone] but of course humanitarian issues are important … protecting citizens is the responsibility of every state.
It appears Turkey is slowly shifting its position, from an outright rejection of a military intervention in Syria, unless there is a direct threat to Turkey’s own national security, to a consideration of humanitarian issues beyond Turkey and with the protection of Syrian citizens as Turkey’s responsibility.
Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s Federation, stated that the current Russian and Chinese veto on any US/French backed resolution, is what keeps the situation as it is in Syria. However, this situation cannot continue, urging the regime to implement reforms and engage the opposition in serious dialogue. If the regime does not follow this path, then it will be difficult to predict what eventuality could arise – Margilov’s statement shows that Russia’s backing of the regime is not open-ended as envisaged. Russia has already backed the Arab League initiative.
All this indicates a gradual push from the US/France and its regional allies, with its first hopes to impose their own solution on the Syrian regime. If there is no changes from the regime, then leading a military intervention becomes feasible, with hopes of significant changes in both Russian and Chinese policy. For now an increased ostracization, coupled with sanctions are means to impose a solution before any full regime change policy is adopted. This was also apparent with Hillary Clinton viewing a military intervention as unlikely but this is tied to current situational factors and not an outright refusal (something to be avoided but not completely discounted).